On Thursday, August 26th the MENG Social Media Council of Advisors, including Mack Collier, Paul Dunay, Drew McLellan, Amber Naslund, Joe Pulizzi and me, joined MENG members to discuss and tackle current social media trends, questions and challenges during an hour long webinar. The reoccurring theme was that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to social media. From measuring to strategy to tactics to branding, planning is absolutely essential to meet the unique needs that each organization has and to measure the success of any social media or marketing efforts.
We kicked off and ended the webinar with quick insights (the lightning round) from the SMCOAs but the core of the webinar was MENG members asking their specific questions as they pertained to social media. We covered a lot in that hour and this post will be a highlight of the webinar. If you are a MENG member, I invite you to listen to the Social Media Council Of Advisors Webinar.
Facebook Places: What Are We Checking Ourselves Into Now?
Facebook Places was introduced on August 18th and as it is with all new things, marketers are still exploring how Facebook Places will affect organizations and social media plans. Here are some things marketing executives should consider whether Facebook is a part of your plan or not:
- If you own a local business that people ‘check into,’ it’s important to check out Facebook Places to explore your options.
- Set your privacy so that people can’t check you in.
- Claim your business and merge it with your Facebook Page.
- Keep an eye on Facebook Places analytics.
- Be sure to measure the impact of Facebook Places on your business.
- Keep in mind that what we see today will change over the next six months.
- Understand how Facebook Places will affect B2B marketing.
- If you are using Foursquare as part of your social media efforts, how will Facebook Places fit in?
- Keep an eye on advertising opportunities specific to Facebook Places.
- Don’t dive in; take your time to do some due diligence around your market, business and brands.
- There is potential to reach out to the customers that check into your locations. Reach out to those customers to gain feedback and market research.
Online Influence: Who Has It vs. Who Needs It
Influence has been a hot topic of conversation the last few weeks for many reasons. One of the main reasons was Fast Company magazine’s influence project. When considering online influence, what is the implication for marketers?
- Numbers alone (Twitter Followers, Blog Readers, Facebook Fans, etc.) don’t dictate or determine influence.
- Influence is often determined by how connected a person is to their network and how trusted they are.
- Influencers might not always be partial to a cause or company but advocates of your organization or brand just may be.
- Relationships are important for influencing those you are looking to reach out to.
- Are you considering the influencers in your space or niche vs. well-known people?
- People in niche spaces are going to be more open to building relationships with others in their space.
- If you are going to target an influencer what are you offering them in return for their time/effort (i.e. what’s your influence level)?
- Influence might be fleeting. How can you find people who can make things happen for your business over and over again because they want to help and not because of who they are or who is paying attention (i.e. lasting influence and relevance)
- It’s not a popularity contest.
- Can you deliver content, information, etc. consistently to the people who matter to help them to do their jobs?
- Companies really need to create higher purpose content that is unique to a specific group.
Social Media Reality: Questions from MENG Members
- Where should we start our social media efforts? Twitter? Facebook? Blogging?
- Is social media more effective for brand management perception or driving sales and leads?
- What are some cutting edge social media marketing strategies that are helping to drive more brand preference or customers satisfaction?
- Why is there a disconnect between traditional direct marketing and social media. There are so many time tested methodologies and approaches available for testing, measurement and understanding results and returns. Is this an age gap thing or a function of shiny object syndrome?
- What are your recommendations to a brand that recognizes the value of social media but doesn’t have the resources to devote significant staff time to maintain several social media accounts?
- Can the panel suggest the key factors or caveats to determine if a client’s new social media initiative will be sustainable? What are critical resources or processes to have in place to develop something sustainable?
- How Do We Determine the ROI of Social Media or Content Marketing?
Over and over the main response to these questions seems to harken back to traditional marketing theory and planning and the following key items:
- Create a plan;
- Make sure the plan is measurable (measurable objectives and tactics that have metrics); and
- Measure against the plan so show ROI or cost savings.
Each company needs to understand the unique goal and objectives they are trying to meet when it comes to social media. Start by asking a few basic questions: What is our goal for social media? What objectives are we trying to reach? What audience are we trying to reach? Where are they located? What are they discussing?
When implementing social media—either into your marketing or organization overall—plan for the resources and the time that you have available. You can still have an effective social media presence on limited resources.
Often the size of a business is less relevant than the depth and breadth in which they want to engage in social media as a business. Some small businesses require a ton of resources because they are incredibly active and some larger businesses require fewer resources because they are just getting started. As a first step, it’s important to spend time listening to the social media space (a couple of hours a week to take a lay of the land). If you have an intent to respond or engage based on what you find, you will also need time for content development or addressing customer service inquiries to either support a positive brand perception—or help reverse a negative one. While social media initiatives can start as part of someone’s job, ultimately organizations may need a team of resources. As well, social media may not always reside in one department, but there should be a central pivot point for someone to take responsibility for social media strategy and coordination. Cross functional teams may help here and to allocate resources.
When considering social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogging, forums, etc., understand that they all work differently and may attract slightly different audiences. It’s important to not start your planning with tactics (and many of these tools fall into that category!) but to use these tools to help you meet your overall goal and objectives. For example, when creating a blog (another tool), you own that content and you can gain credibility through your content (as well as search rankings!). Tools such as Twitter and Facebook can be used to share that content socially.
One key thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to create a position of expertise so people can see how you think and how you work. It’s also important to understand that if you don’t have anything of substance to say that is helpful, it’s going to be hard to be effective with social media.
When it comes to determining success, it’s important to understand that ROI is a singular metric tied to monetary value—investments made (cost) and dollars made back (revenue) in return. It’s important to quantify what you are measuring. For example, you might be measuring savings via social media versus cost. Ultimately, you need to know what your goal is and how to measure those objectives. There is no silver bullet to do that. When planning, use unique metrics to measure your social media efforts. To do so, you’ll need to unlock your creativity just like you did when websites and email marketing were new. In the past we used unique metrics such as PURLs, coupons, 1-800 numbers, landing pages, etc. (A great book to help with metrics is Jim Sterne’s new book ‘Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment.’)
Challenges: Even Social Media Experts Face Them!
- Content: How do we create enough of the right quality content in the right places that is going to be compelling enough to drive business goals? How do we create unique content? How does content integrate with marketing plan and the company? Especially when there is content development throughout the entire company.
- Growing Social Media Team Members: How do I take my social media team and grow it to the relevant size of the organization? Especially when I know employees and senior leadership are using social media tools. How do I take my internal troops and continue to add that to my base of social media friendly people who can talk on our behalf and interface with customers, the media, influencers and advocates?
- Expanding Social Media into Other Areas: How do we expand social media into other areas of the organization outside of communications? Especially when tying in efforts from other areas including areas from customer service to consumer affairs to public relations to product development. How do we take insights and put them into action?
- Measurement: Companies are struggling to understand whether measuring social media is different from what they have measured in the past. From that perspective, how can we instill the discipline of measurement in companies that may not have been as diligent in measuring corporate tactics that were assumed to be successful based on precedent? How can we use tools to build measurement practices?
- Time: The ability to keep track of the social media landscape, creating content, traditional marketing, and exploring the shiny objects to see if they have any lasting value. Getting it all done and keeping up.
- Sustaining Social Media Efforts: What happens when social media advocates are working to incorporate social media into marketing and then there is a change of guard and new management may not appreciate social media or understand social media? How do you make a case for social media? The only way to make social media sustainable is to measure and show success against a plan. Show that success and the value of success (ROI) to new management.
- Strategies vs. Tactics: There aren’t enough instances of companies having strategies. Too many companies are letting the tactics drive the strategies. It’s important to create a strategy first because there isn’t a one size fits all solution when it comes to social media. And success is going to look different for every company. Don’t be afraid of failing! Look at Dell, they had a horrible start. But they learned from their mistakes, they got better and now are successful. The experts are the people who keep trying to break things.
What insights, questions or challenge would you share with MENG members and the SMCOA? We’d love to hear what experiences you’ve had, including successes and failures.
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